Feeling So Emotional – Why We Rage About Religion on Facebook

Mona Abdel Fatil, University of Oslo

January 9, 2016

On Christmas Day, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used his website to tell the world that he was not an atheist any more. In this way, the billionaire used Facebook to express his feelings about religion, like many social media users before him.

My research shows how debates about religion on social networks bring out passionate emotions in users. I found that conservative Christians who discuss contentious issues about religion on Facebook debates often do so in emotionally charged ways.

It seems that simply being religious may sometimes trigger particular emotions and reactions to the topic of religion. But it is not only devoutly religious media users who get pulled into debating religion online or feel very strongly about it: hardcore atheists may also harbour strong emotions about religion, or rather, anti-religion. Discussing topics of faith can strike very close to home for those who strongly identify as either religious or anti-religious.

As a whole, Facebook users who passionately discuss religion online seem to be triggered by their own identity (as religious or non-religious) and an emotional involvement with the theme of religion.

Religion is increasingly viewed as highly politicised, not least due to the way that it is frequently covered in the news. Numerous studies have shown that news stories with emotional cues tend to both gain audience attention and prolong audience engagement.

It may therefore come as no surprise that online debates about religion are packed with emotional cues that evoke strong reactions from those who participate in them. This sets the stage for passionate online debates.

But is the emotional involvement necessarily intrinsic to religion?

Religion is one of the main triggers of emotional interactions online.
Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr, CC BY

Performing conflict

Of course, emotional conflicts are not new, and social media is not the only thing that makes emotions fly high and low.

Studies of the way media audiences may shape conflicts are still relatively scarce. But by taking several of the existing studies and comparing them with my own ethnographic study of a Norwegian Facebook group whose members wish to promote the visibility of Christianity in the public sphere, it is possible to discern a number of similarities in how media users “perform conflict” in emotive ways.

Across several types of conflicts in Northern Europe, media users respond in unmistakably similar ways: by claiming to be the silent majority; by making moral and normative claims about right and wrong; and resorting to blame-and-shame tactics. Even the same type of vocabulary is in circulation across many issues.

The emotionally charged way that media users engage with a variety of conflicts points to very similar mechanisms that serve to amplify and multiply conflicts, for instance, through scapegoating.

Typically, media users are highly expressive of anger, which they direct at the perceived enemy, that is, whoever is deemed responsible for an intolerable state of affairs. The anger is often set off by trigger themes and emotional cues, and leads to escalation of the conflict itself.

Triggering emotions

In Europe, religion is a common trigger theme, but so are immigration and climate change. These issues all seem to consistently fire up the public, and are more likely to induce spiralling arguments and the escalation of conflicts.

Emotional cues are particular words or phrases that serve to heighten emotional involvement. For instance, calling politicians “dictators” or stating that one’s opponents’ are “in pact with the devil” or calling them “imbeciles” can heighten the emotional stakes in a debate.

Media users regularly vent their anger in charged emotional ways.
gfkDSGN/pixabay

One of my most intriguing findings was the discovery that media users employ very similar terminology to attract attention from other debaters and to incite further involvement in the debate.

Employing emotionally charged phrasing, such as calling the unwanted status quo “a tumour”, “toxic disease”, or “poison” are suitable phrases to get other social media users’ blood pressure soaring. Near identical terminology that describes a problem as “disease” and those responsible as part of “a dictatorship” or “the likes of North Korea”, is surprisingly common across all the cases of mediatized conflict I compared.

Media users also responded in very similar ways to thematically different conflicts. The one thing that all of these conflicts had in common though, was that they dealt with trigger themes. Trigger themes have the power to ignite feelings, at times explosive ones.

Raging against the machine

Not only is there an omnipresence of emotion in many online debates about religion and other contentious themes, but the presence of anger is pretty striking too. Those who rage against the machine tend to scapegoat a variety of groups, such as politicians, immigrants or Muslims.

Scholars Asimina Michaeliou and Hans-Jörg Trenz use the term “enraged fan” to describe the angriest of the angry, the ones who are livid about nearly everything. But there are other shades of angry.

In the Norwegian Facebook group, depending on who is raging – the anger is directed at politicians, all religions, Islam or Muslims, secularism, atheism and at times simply the daftness of co-debaters. Put together, all this rage leaves a pretty obvious footprint on the online discussions in the Facebook group.

Still, I believe there is a danger in focusing too much on anger. In my reading, anger may be the emotion that is most clearly expressed, but more complex emotions may well lie at the heart of the enraged utterances.

Bad religion?

Online conflicts with inherent trigger themes, such as those that tug at core religious and identity issues, tend to evoke emotional responses, which, in turn, inspire social media users to perform the conflict in ways that multiply the dispute or disputes.

My study concludes that there needs to be a trigger theme for social media users to perform in particular ways, but that the trigger theme need not be religion.

Trigger themes appear to be an integral part of the dynamics of online conflicts and inspire a heightened state of emotion among audiences, regardless of the topic. In fact, media users appear to react to conflicts in remarkably similar emotionally charged ways, whatever the subject of debate. Religion is just another trigger for the emotions we express online.

This article has been co-published with Religion going Public

The Conversation

Mona Abdel Fatil, Post-Doctoral Researcher, University of Oslo

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Kodak Alaris Reintroduces Iconic EKTACHROME Still Film

 

ROCHESTER, N.Y. and LAS VEGAS, NV January 5, 2017 – Kodak Alaris announced at CES 2017 that it would be reintroducing the iconic KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTACHROME Color Reversal Film for professional and enthusiast photography. The new EKTACHROME film will support 135-36x camera formats and be available in fourth quarter 2017.

KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTACHROME Film has a distinctive look that was the choice for generations of photographers before being discontinued in 2012. The film, known for its extremely fine grain, clean colors, great tones and contrasts, became iconic in no small part due the extensive use of slide film by the National Geographic Magazine over several decades.

Resurgence in the popkodakektachromeoptiularity of analog photography has created demand for new and old film products alike. Sales of professional photographic films have been steadily rising over the last few years, with professionals and enthusiasts rediscovering the artistic control offered by manual processes and the creative satisfaction of a physical end product.

“Film is our heritage and we remain committed to meeting the evolving needs of today’s film shooters,” said Dennis Olbrich, President – Kodak Alaris Imaging Paper, Photo Chemicals and Film. “We’ve been listening to the needs and desires of photographers over the past several years and wanted to bring back a color reversal film. In assessing the opportunity, EKTACHROME was the clear choice.”

KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTACHROME is a color positive film, also known as “reversal,” “slide,” or “transparency” film. Unlike all of the other KODAK PROFESSIONAL Films available today, which are color negative films, EKTACHROME generates a positive image that can be viewed or projected once it is exposed and processed. This makes it ideal for high-resolution projection or presentations. It is also well suited for scanning and printing onto a range of professional grade photographic media.

EKTACHROME Film is developed using the E6 process, available in many professional labs today. Coincident with the Q4 launch, the KODAK PROFESSIONAL Film App will be updated to include Professional Labs where E6 processing is available in addition to labs where color negative and B&W film processing are currently featured.

Also at CES, The Eastman Kodak Company announced the reintroduction of KODAK EKTACHROME Super 8 Film to support the adoption of its recently introduced KODAK Super 8 movie camera. Eastman Kodak will produce KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTACHROME Color Reversal Film for distribution by Kodak Alaris. The combined scale of EKTACHROME Super 8 and still film products creates a viable and sustainable business opportunity for both companies.

About Kodak Alaris
Kodak Alaris is a company that is passionate about using technology to transform organizations and improve people’s lives across the planet. From our document scanners and intelligent state-of-the-art software and services that power some of the world’s largest companies, to our photographic paper production, printing kiosks and suite of consumer apps, we help people capture and connect with the emotional moments that define all our lives. We’re on a mission to unlock the power of images and information for the world. We work behind the scenes, making the connections, pushing the boundaries of technology and helping consumers to make sense of and exploit the ever-expanding volume of data that is the hallmark of the 21st century.

© 2017 Kodak Alaris Inc.
The Kodak trademark and trade dress are used under license from Eastman Kodak Company.

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Declassified Intelligence Report On Russian Hacking – You Be The Judge

January 6, 2017
Custer Free Press

Scope and Sourcing

Information available as of 29 December 2016 was used in the preparation of this product.

Scope

This report includes an analytic assessment drafted and coordinated among The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA), which draws on intelligence information collected and disseminated by those three agencies. It covers the motivation and scope of Moscow’s intentions regarding US elections and Moscow’s use of cyber tools and media campaigns to influence US public opinion. The assessment focuses on activities aimed at the 2016 US presidential election and draws on our understanding of previous Russian influence operations. When we use the term “we” it refers to an assessment by all three agencies.

  • This report is a declassified version of a highly classified assessment. This document’s conclusions are identical to the highly classified assessment, but this document does not include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence on key elements of the influence campaign. Given the redactions, we made minor edits purely for readability and flow.

We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.

  • New information continues to emerge, providing increased insight into Russian activities.

Sourcing

Many of the key judgments in this assessment rely on a body of reporting from multiple sources that are consistent with our understanding of Russian behavior. Insights into Russian efforts—including specific cyber operations—and Russian views of key US players derive from multiple corroborating sources.

Some of our judgments about Kremlin preferences and intent are drawn from the behavior of Kremlin loyal political figures, state media, and pro-Kremlin social media actors, all of whom the Kremlin either directly uses to convey messages or who are answerable to the Kremlin. The Russian leadership invests significant resources in both foreign and domestic propaganda and places a premium on transmitting what it views as consistent, self-reinforcing narratives regarding its desires and redlines, whether on Ukraine, Syria, or relations with the United States.

Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections

Key Judgments

Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.

We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.

  • We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.
  • Moscow’s approach evolved over the course of the campaign based on Russia’s understanding of the electoral prospects of the two main candidates. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign began to focus more on undermining her future presidency.
  • Further information has come to light since Election Day that, when combined with Russian behavior since early November 2016, increases our confidence in our assessments of Russian motivations and goals

Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.” Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on US presidential elections that have used intelligence officers and agents and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin.

  • Russia’s intelligence services conducted cyber operations against targets associated with the 2016 US presidential election, including targets associated with both major US political parties.
  • We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.
  • Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards. DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.
  • Russia’s state-run propaganda machine contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences. We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes.

Russia’s Influence Campaign Targeting the 2016 US Presidential Election

Putin Ordered Campaign To Influence US Election We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency.

  • We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.
  • In trying to influence the US election, we assess the Kremlin sought to advance its longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, the promotion of which Putin and other senior Russian leaders view as a threat to Russia and Putin’s regime.
  • Putin publicly pointed to the Panama Papers disclosure and the Olympic doping scandal as US-directed efforts to defame Russia, suggesting he sought to use disclosures to discredit the image of the United States and cast it as hypocritical.
  • Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him. We assess Putin, his advisers, and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump over Secretary Clinton.
  • Beginning in June, Putin’s public comments about the US presidential race avoided directly praising President-elect Trump, probably because Kremlin officials thought that any praise from Putin personally would backfire in the United States. Nonetheless, Putin publicly indicated a preference for President-elect Trump’s stated policy to work with Russia, and pro-Kremlin figures spoke highly about what they saw as his Russia-friendly positions on Syria and Ukraine. Putin publicly contrasted the President-elect’s approach to Russia with Secretary Clinton’s “aggressive rhetoric.”
  • Moscow also saw the election of President elect Trump as a way to achieve an international counterterrorism coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). · Putin has had many positive experiences working with Western political leaders whose business interests made them more disposed to deal with Russia, such as former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

· Putin, Russian officials, and other pro-Kremlin pundits stopped publicly criticizing the US election process as unfair almost immediately This report is a declassified version of a highly classified assessment; its conclusions are identical to those in the after the election because

Moscow probably assessed it would be counterproductive to building positive relations.

We assess the influence campaign aspired to help President-elect Trump’s chances of victory when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to the President-elect. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the presidency the Russian influence campaign focused more on undercutting Secretary Clinton’s legitimacy and crippling her presidency from its start, including by impugning the fairness of the election.

  • Before the election, Russian diplomats had publicly denounced the US electoral process and were prepared to publicly call into question the validity of the results. Pro Kremlin bloggers had prepared a Twitter campaign, #DemocracyRIP, on election night in anticipation of Secretary Clinton’s victory, judging from their social media activity. Russian Campaign Was Multifaceted Moscow’s use of disclosures during the US election was unprecedented, but its influence campaign otherwise followed a longstanding Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.”
  • We assess that influence campaigns are approved at the highest levels of the Russian Government—particularly those that would be politically sensitive.
  • Moscow’s campaign aimed at the US election reflected years of investment in its capabilities, which Moscow has honed in the former Soviet states.
  • By their nature, Russian influence campaigns are multifaceted and designed to be deniable because they use a mix of agents of influence, cutouts, front organizations, and false-flag operations. Moscow demonstrated this during the Ukraine crisis in 2014, when Russia deployed forces and advisers to eastern Ukraine and denied it publicly.

The Kremlin’s campaign aimed at the US election featured disclosures of data obtained through Russian cyber operations; intrusions into US state and local electoral boards; and overt propaganda. Russian intelligence collection both informed and enabled the influence campaign.

Cyber Espionage Against US Political Organizations.

Russia’s intelligence services conducted cyber operations against targets associated with the 2016 US presidential election, including targets associated with both major US political parties. We assess Russian intelligence services collected against the US primary campaigns, think tanks, and lobbying groups they viewed as likely to shape future US policies. In July 2015, Russian intelligence gained access to Democratic National Committee (DNC) networks and maintained that access until at least June 2016.

  • The General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) probablybegan cyber operations aimed at the US election by March 2016. We assess that the GRU operations resulted in the compromise of the personal e-mail accounts of Democratic Party officials and political figures. By May, the GRU had exfiltrated large volumes of data from the DNC.

Public Disclosures of Russian-Collected Data.

We assess with high confidence that the GRU used the Guccifer 2.0 persona, DCLeaks.com, and WikiLeaks to release US victim data obtained in This report is a declassified version of a highly classified assessment; its conclusions are identical to those in the highly cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets.

  • Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be an independent Romanian hacker, made multiple contradictory statements and false claims about his likely Russian identity throughout the election. Press reporting suggests more than one person claiming to be Guccifer 2.0 interacted with journalists.
  • Content that we assess was taken from e-mail accounts targeted by the GRU in March 2016 appeared on DCLeaks.com starting in June. We assess with high confidence that the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks. Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its selfproclaimed reputation for authenticity. Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries.
  • In early September, Putin said publicly it was important the DNC data was exposed to WikiLeaks, calling the search for the source of the leaks a distraction and denying Russian “state-level” involvement.
  • The Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet RT (formerly Russia Today) has actively collaborated with WikiLeaks. RT’s editor-in-chief visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in August 2013, where they discussed renewing his broadcast contract with RT, according to Russian and Western media. Russian media subsequently announced that RT had become “the only Russian media company” to partner with WikiLeaks and had received access to “new leaks of secret information.” RT routinely gives Assange sympathetic coverage and provides him a platform to denounce the United States.

These election-related disclosures reflect a pattern of Russian intelligence using hacked information in targeted influence efforts against targets such as Olympic athletes and other foreign governments. Such efforts have included releasing or altering personal data, defacing websites, or releasing emails.

  • A prominent target since the 2016 Summer Olympics has been the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), with leaks that we assess to have originated with the GRU and that have involved data on US athletes. Russia collected on some Republican-affiliated targets but did not conduct a comparable disclosure campaign.

Russian Cyber Intrusions Into State and Local Electoral Boards.

Russian intelligence accessed elements of multiple state or local electoral boards. Since early 2014, Russian intelligence has researched US electoral processes and related technology and equipment.

  • DHS assesses that the types of systems we observed Russian actors targeting or compromising are not involved in vote tallying.

Russian Propaganda Efforts.

Russia’s state-run propaganda machine—comprised of its domestic media apparatus, outlets targeting global audiences such as RT and Sputnik, and a network of quasi-government trolls—contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences. State-owned Russian media made increasingly favorable comments about President elect Trump as the 2016 US general and primary election campaigns progressed while consistently offering negative coverage of Secretary Clinton.

  • Starting in March 2016, Russian Government– linked actors began openly supporting President-elect Trump’s candidacy in media aimed at English-speaking audiences. RT and Sputnik—another government-funded outlet producing pro-Kremlin radio and online content in a variety of languages for international audiences—consistently cast President-elect Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional US media outlets that they claimed were subservient to a corrupt political establishment.
  • Russian media hailed President-elect Trump’s victory as a vindication of Putin’s advocacy of global populist movements—the theme of Putin’s annual conference for Western academics in October 2016—and the latest example of Western liberalism’s collapse.
  • Putin’s chief propagandist Dmitriy Kiselev used his flagship weekly newsmagazine program this fall to cast President-elect Trump as an outsider victimized by a corrupt political establishment and faulty democratic election process that aimed to prevent his election because of his desire to work with Moscow.
  • Pro-Kremlin proxy Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, leader of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, proclaimed just before the election that if President-elect Trump won, Russia would “drink champagne” in anticipation of being able to advance its positions on Syria and Ukraine. RT’s coverage of Secretary Clinton throughout the US presidential campaign was consistently negative and focused on her leaked e-mails and accused her of corruption, poor physical and mental health, and ties to Islamic extremism. Some Russian officials echoed Russian lines for the influence campaign that Secretary Clinton’s election could lead to a war between the United States and Russia.
  • In August, Kremlin-linked political analysts suggested avenging negative Western reports on Putin by airing segments devoted to Secretary Clinton’s alleged health problems.
  • On 6 August, RT published an English language video called “Julian Assange Special: Do WikiLeaks Have the E-mail That’ll Put Clinton in Prison?” and an exclusive interview with Assange entitled “Clinton and ISIS Funded by the Same Money.” RT’s most popular video on Secretary Clinton, “How 100% of the Clintons’ ‘Charity’ Went to…Themselves,” had more than 9 million views on social media platforms. RT’s most popular English language video about the President-elect, called “Trump Will Not Be Permitted To Win,” featured Assange and had 2.2 million views.
  • For more on Russia’s past media efforts— including portraying the 2012 US electoral process as undemocratic—please see Annex A: Russia—Kremlin’s TV Seeks To Influence Politics, Fuel Discontent in US. Russia used trolls as well as RT as part of its influence efforts to denigrate Secretary Clinton. This effort amplified stories on scandals about Secretary Clinton and the role of WikiLeaks in the election campaign.
  • The likely financier of the so-called Internet Research Agency of professional trolls located in Saint Petersburg is a close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence.
  • A journalist who is a leading expert on the Internet Research Agency claimed that some social media accounts that appear to be tied to Russia’s professional trolls—because they previously were devoted to supporting Russian actions in Ukraine—started to advocate for President-elect Trump as early as December 2015.

Influence Effort Was Boldest Yet in the US Russia’s effort to influence the 2016 US presidential election represented a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations aimed at US elections. We assess the 2016 influence campaign reflected the Kremlin’s recognition of the worldwide effects that mass disclosures of US Government and other private data—such as those conducted by WikiLeaks and others—have achieved in recent years, and their understanding of the value of orchestrating such disclosures to maximize the impact of compromising information.

  • During the Cold War, the Soviet Union used intelligence officers, influence agents, forgeries, and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin, according to a former KGB archivist. Since the Cold War, Russian intelligence efforts related to US elections have primarily focused on foreign intelligence collection. For decades, Russian and Soviet intelligence services have sought to collect insider information from US political parties that could help Russian leaders understand a new US administration’s plans and priorities.
  • The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Directorate S (Illegals) officers arrested in the United States in 2010 reported to Moscow about the 2008 election.
  • In the 1970s, the KGB recruited a Democratic Party activist who reported information about then-presidential hopeful Jimmy Carter’s campaign and foreign policy plans, according to a former KGB archivist.

Election Operation Signals “New Normal” in Russian Influence Efforts

We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts in the United States and worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes. We assess the Russian intelligence services would have seen their election influence campaign as at least a qualified success because of their perceived ability to impact public discussion.

  • Putin’s public views of the disclosures suggest the Kremlin and the intelligence services will continue to consider using cyber-enabled disclosure operations because of their belief that these can accomplish Russian goals relatively easily without significant damage to Russian interests.
  • Russia has sought to influence elections across Europe.

We assess Russian intelligence services will continue to develop capabilities to provide Putin with options to use against the United States, judging from past practice and current efforts. Immediately after Election Day, we assess Russian intelligence began a spearphishing campaign targeting US Government employees and individuals associated with US think tanks and NGOs in national security, defense, and foreign policy fields. This campaign could provide material for future influence efforts as well as foreign intelligence collection on the incoming administration’s goals and plans.

ANNEX A. This annex was originally published on 11 December 2012 by the Open Source Center, now the Open Source Enterprise.

Russia — Kremlin’s TV Seeks To Influence Politics, Fuel Discontent in US*

RT America TV, a Kremlin-financed channel operated from within the United States, has substantially expanded its repertoire of programming that highlights criticism of alleged US shortcomings in democracy and civil liberties. The rapid expansion of RT’s operations and budget and recent candid statements by RT’s leadership point to the channel’s importance to the Kremlin as a messaging tool and indicate a Kremlin directed campaign to undermine faith in the US Government and fuel political protest. The Kremlin has committed significant resources to expanding the channel’s reach, particularly its social media footprint. A reliable UK report states that RT recently was the most-watched foreign news channel in the UK. RT America has positioned itself as a domestic US channel and has deliberately sought to obscure any legal ties to the Russian Government.

In the runup to the 2012 US presidential election in November, English-language channel RT America — created and financed by the Russian Government and part of Russian Government-sponsored RT TV (see textbox 1) — intensified its usually critical coverage of the United States. The channel portrayed the US electoral process as undemocratic and featured calls by US protesters for the public to rise up and “take this government back.”

  • RT introduced two new shows — “Breaking the Set” on 4 September and “Truthseeker” on 2 November — both overwhelmingly focused on criticism of US and Western governments as well as the promotion of radical discontent.
  • From August to November 2012, RT ran numerous reports on alleged US election fraud and voting machine vulnerabilities, contending that US election results cannot be trusted and do not reflect the popular will.
  • In an effort to highlight the alleged “lack of democracy” in the United States, RT broadcast, hosted, and advertised thirdparty candidate debates and ran reporting supportive of the political agenda of these candidates. The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a “sham.”
  • RT aired a documentary about the Occupy Wall Street movement on 1, 2, and 4 November. RT framed the movement as a fight against “the ruling class” and described the current US political system as corrupt and dominated by corporations. RT advertising for the documentary featured Occupy movement calls to “take back” the government. The documentary claimed that the US system cannot be changed democratically, but only through “revolution.” After the 6 November US presidential election, RT aired a documentary called “Cultures of Protest,” about active and often violent political resistance (RT, 1- 10 November).

RT Conducts Strategic Messaging for Russian Government

RT’s criticism of the US election was the latest facet of its broader and longer-standing anti-US messaging likely aimed at undermining viewers’ trust in US democratic procedures and undercutting US criticism of Russia’s political system. RT Editor in Chief Margarita Simonyan recently declared that the United States itself lacks democracy and that it has “no moral right to teach the rest of the world” (Kommersant, 6 November).

  • Simonyan has characterized RT’s coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement as “information warfare” that is aimed at promoting popular dissatisfaction with the US Government. RT created a Facebook app to connect Occupy Wall Street protesters via social media. In addition, RT featured its own hosts in Occupy rallies (“Minaev Live,” 10 April; RT, 2, 12 June).
  • RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a “surveillance state” and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use (RT, 24, 28 October, 1-10 November).
  • RT has also focused on criticism of the US economic system, US currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the US national debt. Some of RT’s hosts have compared the United States to Imperial Rome and have predicted that government corruption and “corporate greed” will lead to US financial collapse (RT, 31 October, 4 November).

RT broadcasts support for other Russian interests in areas such as foreign and energy policy. · RT runs anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health. This is likely reflective of the Russian Government’s concern about the impact of fracking and US natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Gazprom’s profitability (5 October).

  • RT is a leading media voice opposing Western intervention in the Syrian conflict and blaming the West for waging “information wars” against the Syrian Government (RT, 10 October-9 November).
  • In an earlier example of RT’s messaging in support of the Russian Government, during the Georgia-Russia military conflict the channel accused Georgians of killing civilians and organizing a genocide of the Ossetian people. According to Simonyan, when “the Ministry of Defense was at war with Georgia,” RT was “waging an information war against the entire Western world” (Kommersant, 11 July). In recent interviews, RT’s leadership has candidly acknowledged its mission to expand its US audience and to expose it to Kremlin messaging. However, the leadership rejected claims that RT interferes in US domestic affairs.
  • Simonyan claimed in popular arts magazine Afisha on 3 October: “It is important to have a channel that people get used to, and then, when needed, you show them what you need to show. In some sense, not having our own foreign broadcasting is the same as not having a ministry of defense. When there is no war, it looks like we don’t need it. However, when there is a war, it is critical.”
  • According to Simonyan, “the word ‘propaganda’ has a very negative connotation, but indeed, there is not a single international foreign TV channel that is doing something other than promotion of the values of the country that it is broadcasting from.” She added that “when Russia is at war, we are, of course, on Russia’s side” (Afisha, 3 October; Kommersant, 4 July).
  • TV-Novosti director Nikolov said on 4 October to the Association of Cable Television that RT builds on worldwide demand for “an alternative view of the entire world.” Simonyan asserted on 3 October in Afisha that RT’s goal is “to make an alternative channel that shares information unavailable elsewhere” in order to “conquer the audience” and expose it to Russian state messaging (Afisha, 3 October; Kommersant, 4 July).
  • On 26 May, Simonyan tweeted with irony: “Ambassador McFaul hints that our channel is interference with US domestic affairs. And we, sinful souls, were thinking that it is freedom of speech.”

RT Leadership Closely Tied to, Controlled by Kremlin

RT Editor in Chief Margarita Simonyan has close ties to top Russian Government officials, especially Presidential Administration Deputy Chief of Staff Aleksey Gromov, who reportedly manages political TV coverage in Russia and is one of the founders of RT.

  • Simonyan has claimed that Gromov shielded her from other officials and their requests to air certain reports. Russian media consider Simonyan to be Gromov’s protege (Kommersant, 4 July; Dozhd TV, 11 July).
  • Simonyan replaced Gromov on stateowned Channel One’s Board of Directors. Government officials, including Gromov and Putin’s Press Secretary Peskov were involved in creating RT and appointing Simonyan (Afisha, 3 October).
  • According to Simonyan, Gromov oversees political coverage on TV, and he has periodic meetings with media managers where he shares classified information and discusses their coverage plans. Some opposition journalists, including Andrey Loshak, claim that he also ordered media attacks on opposition figures (Kommersant, 11 July). The Kremlin staffs RT and closely supervises RT’s coverage, recruiting people who can convey Russian strategic messaging because of their ideological beliefs.
  • The head of RT’s Arabic-language service, Aydar Aganin, was rotated from the diplomatic service to manage RT’s Arabic-language expansion, suggesting a close relationship between RT and Russia’s foreign policy apparatus. RT’s London Bureau is managed by Darya Pushkova, the daughter of Aleksey Pushkov, the current chair of the Duma Russian Foreign Affairs Committee and a former Gorbachev speechwriter (DXB, 26 March 2009; MK.ru, 13 March 2006).
  • According to Simonyan, the Russian Government sets rating and viewership requirements for RT and, “since RT receives budget from the state, it must complete tasks given by the state.” According to Nikolov, RT news stories are written and edited “to become news” exclusively in RT’s Moscow office (Dozhd TV, 11 July; AKT, 4 October).
  • In her interview with pro-Kremlin journalist Sergey Minaev, Simonyan complimented RT staff in the United States for passionately defending Russian positions on the air and in social media. Simonyan said: “I wish you could see…how these guys, not just on air, but on their own social networks, Twitter, and when giving interviews, how they defend the positions that we stand on!” (“Minaev Live,” 10 April). Simonyan shows RT facilities to then Prime Minister Putin. Simonyan was on Putin’s 2012 presidential election campaign staff in Moscow (Rospress, 22 September 2010, Ria Novosti, 25 October 2012).

RT Focuses on Social Media, Building Audience RT aggressively advertises its social media accounts and has a significant and fast-growing social media footprint. In line with its efforts to present itself as anti-mainstream and to provide viewers alternative news content, RT is making its social media operations a top priority, both to avoid broadcast TV regulations and to expand its overall audience.

  • According to RT management, RT’s website receives at least 500,000 unique viewers every day. Since its inception in 2005, RT videos received more than 800 million views on YouTube (1 million views per day), which is the highest among news outlets (see graphics for comparison with other news channels) (AKT, 4 October).
  • According to Simonyan, the TV audience worldwide is losing trust in traditional TV broadcasts and stations, while the popularity of “alternative channels” like RT or Al Jazeera grows. RT markets itself as an “alternative channel” that is available via the Internet everywhere in the world, and it encourages interaction and social networking (Kommersant, 29 September).
  • According to Simonyan, RT uses social media to expand the reach of its political reporting and uses well-trained people to monitor public opinion in social media commentaries (Kommersant, 29 September).
  • According to Nikolov, RT requires its hosts to have social media accounts, in part because social media allows the distribution of content that would not be allowed on television (Newreporter.org, 11 October).
  • Simonyan claimed in her 3 October interview to independent TV channel Dozhd that Occupy Wall Street coverage gave RT a significant audience boost. The Kremlin spends $190 million a year on the distribution and dissemination of RT programming, focusing on hotels and satellite, terrestrial, and cable broadcasting. The Kremlin is rapidly expanding RT’s availability around the world and giving it a reach comparable to channels such as Al Jazeera English. According to Simonyan, the United Kingdom and the United States are RT’s most successful markets. RT does not, however, publish audience information.
  • According to market research company Nielsen, RT had the most rapid growth (40 percent) among all international news channels in the United States over the past year (2012). Its audience in New York tripled and in Washington DC grew by 60% (Kommersant, 4 July).
  • RT claims that it is surpassing Al Jazeera in viewership in New York and Washington DC (BARB, 20 November; RT, 21 November).
  • RT states on its website that it can reach more than 550 million people worldwide and 85 million people in the United States; however, it does not publicize its actual US audience numbers (RT, 10 December).

Formal Disassociation From Kremlin Facilitates RT US Messaging

RT America formally disassociates itself from the Russian Government by using a Moscow-based autonomous nonprofit organization to finance its US operations. According to RT’s leadership, this structure was set up to avoid the Foreign Agents Registration Act and to facilitate licensing abroad. In addition, RT rebranded itself in 2008 to deemphasize its Russian origin.

  • According to Simonyan, RT America differs from other Russian state institutions in terms of ownership, but not in terms of financing. To disassociate RT from the Russian Government, the federal news agency RIA Novosti established a subsidiary autonomous nonprofit organization, TVNovosti, using the formal independence of this company to establish and finance RT worldwide (Dozhd TV, 11 July).
  • Nikolov claimed that RT is an “autonomous noncommercial entity,” which is “well received by foreign regulators” and “simplifies getting a license.” Simonyan said that RT America is not a “foreign agent” according to US law because it uses a US commercial organization for its broadcasts (AKT, 4 October; Dozhd TV, 11 July).
  • Simonyan observed that RT’s original Russia-centric news reporting did not generate sufficient audience, so RT switched to covering international and US domestic affairs and removed the words “Russia Today” from the logo “to stop scaring away the audience” (Afisha, 18 October; Kommersant, 4 July).
  • RT hires or makes contractual agreements with Westerners with views that fit its agenda and airs them on RT. Simonyan said on the pro-Kremlin show “Minaev Live” on 10 April that RT has enough audience and money to be able to choose its hosts, and it chooses the hosts that “think like us,” “are interested in working in the anti-mainstream,” and defend RT’s beliefs on social media. Some hosts and journalists do not present themselves as associated with RT when interviewing people, and many of them have affiliations to other media and activist organizations in the United States (“Minaev Live,” 10 April).

Editors note: Several pages with graphic and photos were omitted in this report to save time loading.

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From South India to Trump’s Election: The Happy Marriage of Stardom and Politics

From South India to Trump’s election: the happy marriage of stardom and politics

SV Srinivas, Azim Premji University

For many in India, Donald Trump’s election victory in the United States wasn’t surreal as much as an uncanny replay of familiar stories, especially for those accustomed to the saga and careers of south India’s film-star politicians.

The issue is fresh in our minds following the recent death of Jayalalithaa Jayaram, the last of the three great actor-turned-politicians of south India.

Jayaram was the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, a state where film personalities have dominated politics since 1967. That was the year former actor Ronald Reagan became the governor of California. Since then, no less than five chief ministers of Tamil Nadu have had a film industry connection.

Jayalalithaa Jayaram in the movie Naan, 1967.

In the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh, the party established by film star Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao (N.T. Rama Rao or NTR) has been in and out of power since 1983.

NTR openly admitted that he drew inspiration from the success of Tamil actor-politician Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran (better known as MGR), who was elected chief minister in 1977.

Tamil TV (Raj TV) pays tribute to the life of MGR.

Anthropologist Francis Cody has said, with reference to the star politicians of Tamil Nadu, that “the image, which was once a vehicle of political publicity, has replaced conventional politics in importance”.

We can use the phrase “mediatisation of politics” to describe the larger phenomenon of celebrities taking political office. And it goes far beyond traditional ideas about media images and gullible masses who can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction.

Mediatisation of politics

Mediatisation is not about political personalities “looking good” in the media, although that too is important and has been so for over half a century. John F Kennedy’s television presence is said to be among the reasons he won the closely fought election against Richard Nixon in 1960.

This does not mean beautiful people inevitably win elections. Or, in today’s context, that Twitter and fake news can make a candidate look bad enough to lose an election. After all, we live in times when we don’t really believe the media.

There has been a marked shift by film star politicians of south India – anticipated as early as the 1970s – away from looking presentable and, following the classic propaganda model, using print or audio-visual materials to gain the upper hand.

In their different ways, the three actor chief ministers of south India forged new forms of campaigning and governing. Their methods were, above all, performative, and their communication style was exaggerated and theatrical rather than dry and political.

The first political speech by NTR in 1982.

Today, there is no doubt that this is very effective political communication. And it is predicated on the power of gesture and symbolic actions.

In a spectacle, argues Roland Barthes, “what matters is not what [the public] thinks but what it sees.” And what the public sees are signs, he writes, “endowed with an absolute clarity, since one must always understand everything on the spot.”

What did voters see in Trump’s over-the-top campaign? An article in The New York Times, observes, “Much of the white working class decided that Mr Trump could be a jerk … They supported the jerk they thought was more on their side — that is, on the issues that most concerned them.”

What mattered in November 2016 was that sections of the US electorate saw Trump making the right gestures, heard him make the right noises.

What Trump’s hand gestures say about him, BBC, August 2016.

Barthes, by the way, was writing about wrestling rather than reality television or political campaigns. Nevertheless, the resemblance between all three are unmistakable and Trump had been associated with all these forms of spectacle even before he kick-started his successful campaign.

Traceable to the expansion of markets for media commodities, this special feature of politics that has now occupied the centre-stage of election campaigns in different parts of the world has leaders constantly performing their defiance, anger, or hurt on behalf of a constituency.

Or rather, constituencies are formed partly in response to leaders’ excessive, even laughable performances.

Spectacle vs political content

This in itself is not a sign of right-wing ideologies taking over the world, as journalists and academics have argued, pointing to the rise of bigoted leaders in Europe and elsewhere. Although these labels do capture strands of Trump’s campaign, they paint all politicians who have mastered the performative idiom with the same brush.

A notable characteristic of the Trump campaign was its lack of substantial political content. This was not just because it was bigotry plain and simple but also because it was powered by his performance. And no one can deny that he put up quite a show in his rallies, on television and Twitter – rather than a program of action.

The now-deceased star politicians of south India were populists too and early pioneers of content-light, mediatised campaigns, which had a sound “political logic”, to borrow Ernesto Laclau’s description of populism. Laclau argues that the populist need not be committed to any particular ideology. She or he need not even be consistently left, right or centre of anything.

In Trump, we have a textbook example of such leadership: in the past decade he has been – serially – a Democrat, a Reform Party member (and a presidential candidate of this party to boot), an independent and a Republican. Such was his faith in the power of his own performance (and lack of faith in the party system) that even in early 2016, he threatened to run as an independent.

What matters in campaigns of this kind is the mediatised act; it is staged, and communicates through gesture. Opinions can always be expressed, changed and recanted.

Trump’s lack of commitment to a concrete program is already the stuff of legend. During the 2016 campaign, the electorate was apparently subjected to no less than “141 distinct stances on 23 major issues during his bid for the White House.” Herein lies an(other) uncanny resemblance between Trump and a south Indian film-star politician.

In March 1982, the actor NT Rama Rao — who had no political background but who had starred in roughly 300 films — announced his decision to enter politics. One of his biographers, M.D. Narayana, suggests that he had no idea what his agenda was going to be. Apparently, he even came up with a name for his party on the spot when quizzed by reporters during his first press conference. His famous populist promises came months after his campaign proved to be a success with the masses.

Perhaps he would have won that election even if he had not released a manifesto. As Amit Shah, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which heads the ruling coalition in India, reminded us in early 2015, “election promises are rhetorical expressions (jumla) anyway”.

No doubt Donald Trump would agree. And surely, he may be forgiven if the Mexican wall is not built and Hillary Clinton does not go to jail. Or, for that matter, there’s no cracking of the whip on Indian software companies and Chinese manufacturers. At least he made the right gestures to sections of the electorate.

What then, can we expect from a leader without a clearly defined program, especially one who rose to power independently of party structures?

The three south Indian star chief ministers proved to be authoritarian and their governments had uniformly poor human rights records. At the same time, they came to be associated with populist measures, often with more symbolic than economic value.

In India today, performer-politicians are neither limited to south India nor are they always former celebrities. As for Donald Trump, the early signs are anything but encouraging. But let’s keep our fingers crossed.

The Conversation

SV Srinivas, Professor, School of Liberal Studies, Azim Premji University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Will Obama’s offshore drilling ban be Trumped?

Will Obama’s offshore drilling ban be Trumped?

Patrick Parenteau, Vermont Law School

President Obama gave environmental advocates a Christmas present when he announced in late December that he was banning oil and gas drilling in huge swaths of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. This action “indefinitely” protects almost 120 million acres of ecologically important and highly sensitive marine environments from the risks of oil spills and other industrial impacts.

President Obama acted boldly to conserve important ecological resources and solidify his environmental legacy. But by making creative use of an obscure provision of a 1953 law, Obama ignited a legal and political firestorm.

Republicans and oil industry trade groups are threatening to challenge the ban in court or through legislation. They also contend that the Trump administration can act directly to reverse it. But a close reading of the law suggests that it could be difficult to undo Obama’s sweeping act.

The power to withdraw

Congress passed the law now known as the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act in 1953 to assert federal control over submerged lands that lie more then three miles offshore, beyond state coastal waters. Section 12(a) of the law authorizes the president to “withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf.”

Starting in 1960 with the Eisenhower administration, six presidents from both parties have used this power. Most withdrawals were time-limited, but some were long-term. For example, in 1990 President George H. W. Bush permanently banned oil and gas development in California’s Monterey Bay, which later became a national marine sanctuary.

Kelp forests in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary support many marine species.
Chad King, NOAA/Flickr

President Obama used section 12(a) in 2014 to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay, one of the most productive wild salmon fisheries in the world. In 2015 he took the same step for approximately 9.8 million acres in the biologically rich Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

Obama’s latest action bars energy production in 115 million more acres of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas – an area known as the “Arctic Ring of Life” because of its importance to Inupiat Peoples who have lived there for millennia. The order also withdraws 3.8 million acres off the Atlantic Coast from Norfolk, Virginia to Canada, including several unique and largely unexplored coral canyons.

Why Obama acted

In a Presidential Memorandum on the Arctic withdrawals, Obama provided three reasons for his action. First, he asserted, these areas have irreplaceable value for marine mammals, other wildlife, wildlife habitat, scientific research and Alaska Native subsistence use. Second, they are extremely vulnerable to oil spills. Finally, drilling for oil and responding to spills in Arctic waters poses unique logistical, operational, safety and scientific challenges.

In ordering the Atlantic withdrawals, Obama cited his responsibility to “ensure that the unique resources associated with these canyons remain available for future generations.”

Market forces support Obama’s action. Royal Dutch Shell stopped drilling in the Chukchi Sea in 2015 after spending US$7 billion and drilling in what proved to be a dry hole. Since 2008 the Interior Department has canceled or withdrawn a number of sales in Alaskan waters due to low demand. Shell, ConocoPhillips, Statoil, Chevron, BP and Exxon have all to some degree abandoned offshore Arctic drilling.

The Beaufort and Chukchi seas are zones of the Arctic Ocean off the coast of northern Alaska.
Mohonu/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Low oil prices coupled with high drilling costs make business success in the region a risky prospect. Lloyd’s of London forecast this scenario in a 2012 report that called offshore drilling in the Arctic “a unique and hard-to-manage risk.”

What happens next?

Critics of President Obama’s action, including the state of Alaska and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say they may challenge Obama’s order in court, in hopes that the Trump administration will opt not to defend it. But environmental groups, which hailed Obama’s action, will seek to intervene in any such lawsuit.

Moreover, to demonstrate that they have standing to sue, plaintiffs would have to show that they have suffered or face imminent injury; that this harm was caused by Obama’s action; and that it can be redressed by the court. Market conditions will make this very difficult.

The Energy Information Administration currently projects that crude oil prices, which averaged about $43 per barrel through 2016, will rise to only about $52 per barrel in 2017. Whether these areas will ever be commercially viable is an open question, especially since rapid changes are taking place in the electricity and transportation sectors, and other coastal areas are open for leasing in Alaska’s near-shore waters and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig Kulluk broke loose and ran aground near Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska as it was being towed to Seattle for winter maintenance in December 2012. This Coast Guard overflight video shows the harsh conditions along Alaska’s coast in winter.

Alternatively, Donald Trump could issue his own memorandum in office seeking to cancel Obama’s. However, section 12(a) does not provide any authority for presidents to revoke actions by their predecessors. It delegates authority to presidents to withdraw land unconditionally. Once they take this step, only Congress can undo it.

This issue has never been litigated. Opponents can be expected to argue that Obama’s use of section 12(a) in this manner is unconstitutional because it violates the so-called “nondelegation doctrine,” which basically holds that Congress cannot delegate legislative functions to the executive branch without articulating some “intelligible principles.”

However, one could argue that Obama’s action was based on an articulation of intelligible principles gleaned from the stated policies of the OCSLA, which recognizes that the “the outer Continental Shelf is a vital national resource reserve held by the Federal Government for the public.” The law expressly recognizes both the energy and environmental values of the OCS. Thus President Obama’s decision reflects a considered judgment that the national interest is best served by protecting the unique natural resources of these areas, while at the same time weaning the nation from its dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of state, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2012 after signing an agreement with Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. The companies’ joint venture to develop energy resources in Russia’s Arctic waters has been blocked by U.S. sanctions on Russia since 2014.
AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service

The section 12(a) authority is similar in some respects to the authority granted by the Antiquities Act, which authorizes the president to “reserve parcels of land as a part of [a] national monument.” Like the OCSLA, the Antiquities Act does not authorize subsequent presidents to undo the designations of their predecessors. Obama has also used this power extensively – most recently, last week when he designated two new national monuments in Utah and Nevada totaling 1.65 million acres.

Some laws do include language that allows such actions to be revoked. Examples include the Forest Service Organic Administration Act, under which most national forests were established, and the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which sets out policies for managing multiple-use public lands. The fact that Congress chose not to include revocation language in the OCSLA indicates that it did not intend to provide such power.

What can the new Congress do?

Under Article IV of the Constitution, Congress has plenary authority to dispose of federal property as it sees fit. This would include the authority to open these areas to leasing for energy development. Members of Alaska’s congressional delegation are considering introducing legislation to override Obama’s drilling ban. But Democrats could filibuster to block any such move, and Republicans – who will hold a 52-48 margin in the Senate – would need 60 votes to stop them.

On the other hand, Congress may be content to let President-elect Trump make the first move and see how it goes in court. If Trump attempts to reverse the withdrawal, environmental groups contesting his decision would face some of the same obstacles as an industry challenge to Obama’s action. It could be especially challenging for environmental groups to show that the claim is “ripe” for judicial review, at least until a post-Obama administration acts to actually open up these areas for leasing. That may not occur for some time, given the weak market for the oil in these regions.

In the meantime, this decision is a fitting capstone for a president who has done everything within his power to confront the existential threat of climate change and rationally move the nation and the world onto a safer and more sustainable path.

The Conversation

Patrick Parenteau, Professor of Law, Vermont Law School

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Principles For Middle East Peace

In his December 28, 2016 Remarks on Middle East Peace, Secretary of State John Kerry presented the Administration’s view on the broad consensus that has emerged regarding principles for a final status agreement that could meet the needs of both sides, reflecting the Secretary’s efforts and discussions with the parties and key stakeholders over the past four years.

These principles were offered not to prejudge or impose an outcome, but to provide a possible basis for serious negotiations when the parties are ready.

Washington
December 29, 2016

Principle 1. Provide for secure and recognized international borders between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestine, negotiated based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed equivalent swaps.

Resolution 242, which has been enshrined in international law for 50 years, provides for the withdrawal of Israel from territories it occupied in 1967 in return for peace with its neighbors and secure and recognized borders. It has long been accepted by both sides, and it remains the basis for an agreement today.

The Arab League has previously agreed, following the Secretary’s engagement, that the reference in the Arab Peace Initiative to 1967 lines now includes the concept of land swaps, which the Palestinians have acknowledged. This is necessary to reflect practical realities on the ground, and mutually agreed equivalent swaps will ensure that the agreement is fair to both sides.

There is also broad recognition of Israel’s need to ensure that the borders are secure and defensible, and that the territory of Palestine is viable and contiguous. There is also a clear consensus that no changes by Israel to the 1967 lines will be recognized by the international community unless agreed to by both sides.

Principle 2. Fulfill the vision of the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Arab, with mutual recognition and full equal rights for all their respective citizens.

This has been the foundational principle of the two-state solution from the beginning: Creating a state for the Jewish people and a state for the Palestinian people, where each can achieve their national aspirations. Resolution 181 is incorporated into the foundational documents of both the Israelis and Palestinians. Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state has been the U.S. position for years, and many others have expressed that they are prepared to accept it as well, provided the need for a Palestinian state is also addressed.

There are some 1.7 million Arab citizens who call Israel their home and must now and always be able to live as equal citizens. That is why it is so important that in recognizing each other’s homeland – Israel for the Jewish people and Palestine for the Palestinian people – both sides reaffirm their commitment to upholding full equal rights for all of their respective citizens.

Principle 3. Provide for a just, agreed, fair, and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, with international assistance, that includes compensation, options and assistance in finding permanent homes, acknowledgment of suffering, and other measures necessary for a comprehensive resolution consistent with two states for two peoples.

As part of a comprehensive resolution, the Palestinian refugees must be provided with compensation, their suffering must be acknowledged, and there will need to be options and assistance in finding permanent homes. The international community can provide significant support and assistance, including in raising money to help ensure the compensation and other needs of the refugees are met, and many have expressed a willingness to contribute to that effort. But there is a general recognition that the solution must be consistent with two states for two peoples, and cannot affect the fundamental character of Israel.

Principle 4. Provide an agreed resolution for Jerusalem as the internationally recognized capital of the two states, and protect and assure freedom of access to the holy sites consistent with the established status quo.

Jerusalem is the most sensitive issue for both sides, and the solution must meet the needs not only of the parties, but of all three monotheistic faiths. That is why the holy sites that are sacred to billions of people around the world must be protected and remain accessible, and the established status quo maintained. Most acknowledge that Jerusalem should not be divided again like it was in 1967. At the same time, there is broad recognition that there will be no peace agreement without reconciling the basic aspirations of both sides to have capitals there.

Principle 5. Satisfy Israel’s security needs and bring a full end to the occupation, while ensuring that Israel can defend itself effectively and that Palestine can provide security for its people in a sovereign and non-militarized state.

Security is the fundamental issue for Israel. Everyone understands that no Israeli Government can ever accept an agreement that does not satisfy its security needs or risks creating an enduring security threat like Gaza in the West Bank. Israel must be able to defend itself effectively, including against terrorism and other regional threats. There is a real willingness by Egypt, Jordan, and others to work together with Israel on meeting key security challenges. The United States believes that those collective efforts, including close coordination on border security, intelligence-sharing, and joint operations, can play a critical role in securing the peace.

Fully ending the occupation is the fundamental issue for the Palestinians: They need to know that the military occupation will really end after an agreed transitional process, and that they can live in freedom and dignity in a sovereign state while providing security for their population even without a military of their own. This is widely accepted as well.

Principle 6. End the conflict and all outstanding claims, enabling normalized relations and enhanced regional security for all as envisaged by the Arab Peace Initiative.

It is essential for both sides that the final status agreement resolves all the outstanding issues and finally brings closure to this conflict, so they can move ahead to a new era of peaceful coexistence and cooperation. For Israel, this must also bring broader peace with its Arab neighbors. That is the fundamental promise of the Arab Peace Initiative, which key Arab leaders have affirmed.

Secretary of State John Kerry Calls Israeli Settler Activity an Obstacle to Peace

John Kerry
Secretary of State
The Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC
December 28, 2016

WASHINGTON – Today, I want to share candid thoughts about an issue which for decades has animated the foreign policy dialogue here and around the world – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Throughout his Administration, President Obama has been deeply committed to Israel and its security, and that commitment has guided his pursuit of peace in the Middle East. This is an issue which, all of you know, I have worked on intensively during my time as Secretary of State for one simple reason: because the two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors. It is the only way to ensure a future of freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people. And it is an important way of advancing United States interests in the region.

Now, I’d like to explain why that future is now in jeopardy, and provide some context for why we could not, in good conscience, stand in the way of a resolution at the United Nations that makes clear that both sides must act now to preserve the possibility of peace.

I’m also here to share my conviction that there is still a way forward if the responsible parties are willing to act. And I want to share practical suggestions for how to preserve and advance the prospects for the just and lasting peace that both sides deserve.

So it is vital that we have an honest, clear-eyed conversation about the uncomfortable truths and difficult choices, because the alternative that is fast becoming the reality on the ground is in nobody’s interest – not the Israelis, not the Palestinians, not the region – and not the United States.

Now, I want to stress that there is an important point here: My job, above all, is to defend the United States of America – to stand up for and defend our values and our interests in the world. And if we were to stand idly by and know that in doing so we are allowing a dangerous dynamic to take hold which promises greater conflict and instability to a region in which we have vital interests, we would be derelict in our own responsibilities.

Regrettably, some seem to believe that the U.S. friendship means the U.S. must accept any policy, regardless of our own interests, our own positions, our own words, our own principles – even after urging again and again that the policy must change. Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect.

Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, who does not support a two-state solution, said after the vote last week, quote, “It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share,” and veto this resolution. I am compelled to respond today that the United States did, in fact, vote in accordance with our values, just as previous U.S. administrations have done at the Security Council before us.

They fail to recognize that this friend, the United States of America, that has done more to support Israel than any other country, this friend that has blocked countless efforts to delegitimize Israel, cannot be true to our own values – or even the stated democratic values of Israel – and we cannot properly defend and protect Israel if we allow a viable two-state solution to be destroyed before our own eyes.

And that’s the bottom line: the vote in the United Nations was about preserving the two-state solution. That’s what we were standing up for: Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace and security with its neighbors. That’s what we are trying to preserve for our sake and for theirs.

In fact, this Administration has been Israel’s greatest friend and supporter, with an absolutely unwavering commitment to advancing Israel’s security and protecting its legitimacy.

On this point, I want to be very clear: No American administration has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama’s. The Israeli prime minister himself has noted our, quote, “unprecedented” military and intelligence cooperation. Our military exercises are more advanced than ever. Our assistance for Iron Dome has saved countless Israeli lives. We have consistently supported Israel’s right to defend itself, by itself, including during actions in Gaza that sparked great controversy.

Time and again we have demonstrated that we have Israel’s back. We have strongly opposed boycotts, divestment campaigns, and sanctions targeting Israel in international fora, whenever and wherever its legitimacy was attacked, and we have fought for its inclusion across the UN system. In the midst of our own financial crisis and budget deficits, we repeatedly increased funding to support Israel. In fact, more than one-half of our entire global Foreign Military Financing goes to Israel. And this fall, we concluded an historic $38 billion memorandum of understanding that exceeds any military assistance package the United States has provided to any country, at any time, and that will invest in cutting-edge missile defense and sustain Israel’s qualitative military edge for years to come. That’s the measure of our support.

This commitment to Israel’s security is actually very personal for me. On my first trip to Israel as a young senator in 1986, I was captivated by a special country, one that I immediately admired and soon grew to love. Over the years, like so many others who are drawn to this extraordinary place, I have climbed Masada, swum in the Dead Sea, driven from one Biblical city to another. I’ve also seen the dark side of Hizballah’s rocket storage facilities just across the border in Lebanon, walked through exhibits of the hell of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, stood on the Golan Heights, and piloted an Israeli jet over the tiny airspace of Israel, which would make anyone understand the importance of security to Israelis. Out of those experiences came a steadfast commitment to Israel’s security that has never wavered for a single minute in my 28 years in the Senate or my four years as Secretary.

I have also often visited West Bank communities, where I met Palestinians struggling for basic freedom and dignity amidst the occupation, passed by military checkpoints that can make even the most routine daily trips to work or school an ordeal, and heard from business leaders who could not get the permits that they needed to get their products to the market and families who have struggled to secure permission just to travel for needed medical care.

And I have witnessed firsthand the ravages of a conflict that has gone on for far too long. I’ve seen Israeli children in Sderot whose playgrounds had been hit by Katyusha rockets. I’ve visited shelters next to schools in Kiryat Shmona that kids had 15 seconds to get to after a warning siren went off. I’ve also seen the devastation of war in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian girls in Izbet Abed Rabo played in the rubble of a bombed-out building.

No children – Israeli or Palestinian – should have to live like that.

So, despite the obvious difficulties that I understood when I became Secretary of State, I knew that I had to do everything in my power to help end this conflict. And I was grateful to be working for President Obama, who was prepared to take risks for peace and was deeply committed to that effort.

Like previous U.S. administrations, we have committed our influence and our resources to trying to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict because, yes, it would serve American interests to stabilize a volatile region and fulfill America’s commitment to the survival, security and well-being of an Israel at peace with its Arab neighbors.

Despite our best efforts over the years, the two-state solution is now in serious jeopardy.

The truth is that trends on the ground – violence, terrorism, incitement, settlement expansion and the seemingly endless occupation – they are combining to destroy hopes for peace on both sides and increasingly cementing an irreversible one-state reality that most people do not actually want.

Today, there are a number – there are a similar number of Jews and Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. They have a choice. They can choose to live together in one state, or they can separate into two states. But here is a fundamental reality: if the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic – it cannot be both – and it won’t ever really be at peace. Moreover, the Palestinians will never fully realize their vast potential in a homeland of their own with a one-state solution.

Now, most on both sides understand this basic choice, and that is why it is important that polls of Israelis and Palestinians show that there is still strong support for the two-state solution – in theory. They just don’t believe that it can happen.

After decades of conflict, many no longer see the other side as people, only as threats and enemies. Both sides continue to push a narrative that plays to people’s fears and reinforces the worst stereotypes rather than working to change perceptions and build up belief in the possibility of peace.

And the truth is the extraordinary polarization in this conflict extends beyond Israelis and Palestinians. Allies of both sides are content to reinforce this with an us or – “you’re with us or against us” mentality where too often anyone who questions Palestinian actions is an apologist for the occupation and anyone who disagrees with Israel policy is cast as anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic.

That’s one of the most striking realties about the current situation: This critical decision about the future – one state or two states – is effectively being made on the ground every single day, despite the expressed opinion of the majority of the people.

The status quo is leading towards one state and perpetual occupation, but most of the public either ignores it or has given up hope that anything can be done to change it. And with this passive resignation, the problem only gets worse, the risks get greater and the choices are narrowed.

This sense of hopelessness among Israelis is exacerbated by the continuing violence, terrorist attacks against civilians and incitement, which are destroying belief in the possibility of peace.

Let me say it again: There is absolutely no justification for terrorism, and there never will be.

And the most recent wave of Palestinian violence has included hundreds of terrorist attacks in the past year, including stabbings, shootings, vehicular attacks and bombings, many by individuals who have been radicalized by social media. Yet the murderers of innocents are still glorified on Fatah websites, including showing attackers next to Palestinian leaders following attacks. And despite statements by President Abbas and his party’s leaders making clear their opposition to violence, too often they send a different message by failing to condemn specific terrorist attacks and naming public squares, streets and schools after terrorists.

President Obama and I have made it clear to the Palestinian leadership countless times, publicly and privately, that all incitement to violence must stop. We have consistently condemned violence and terrorism, and even condemned the Palestinian leadership for not condemning it.

Far too often, the Palestinians have pursued efforts to delegitimize Israel in international fora. We have strongly opposed these initiatives, including the recent wholly unbalanced and inflammatory UNESCO resolution regarding Jerusalem. And we have made clear our strong opposition to Palestinian efforts against Israel at the ICC, which only sets back the prospects for peace.

And we all understand that the Palestinian Authority has a lot more to do to strengthen its institutions and improve governance.

Most troubling of all, Hamas continues to pursue an extremist agenda: they refuse to accept Israel’s very right to exist. They have a one-state vision of their own: all of the land is Palestine. Hamas and other radical factions are responsible for the most explicit forms of incitement to violence, and many of the images that they use are truly appalling. And they are willing to kill innocents in Israel and put the people of Gaza at risk in order to advance that agenda.

Compounding this, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, exacerbated by the closings of the crossings, is dire. Gaza is home to one of the world’s densest concentrations of people enduring extreme hardships with few opportunities. 1.3 million people out of Gaza’s population of 1.8 million are in need of daily assistance – food and shelter. Most have electricity less than half the time and only 5 percent of the water is safe to drink. And yet despite the urgency of these needs, Hamas and other militant groups continue to re-arm and divert reconstruction materials to build tunnels, threatening more attacks on Israeli civilians that no government can tolerate.

Now, at the same time, we have to be clear about what is happening in the West Bank. The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements. The result is that policies of this government, which the prime minister himself just described as “more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history,” are leading in the opposite direction. They’re leading towards one state. In fact, Israel has increasingly consolidated control over much of the West Bank for its own purposes, effectively reversing the transitions to greater Palestinian civil authority that were called for by the Oslo Accords.

I don’t think most people in Israel, and certainly in the world, have any idea how broad and systematic the process has become. But the facts speak for themselves. The number of settlers in the roughly 130 Israeli settlements east of the 1967 lines has steadily grown. The settler population in the West Bank alone, not including East Jerusalem, has increased by nearly 270,000 since Oslo, including 100,000 just since 2009, when President Obama’s term began.

There’s no point in pretending that these are just in large settlement blocks. Nearly 90,000 settlers are living east of the separation barrier that was created by Israel itself in the middle of what, by any reasonable definition, would be the future Palestinian state. And the population of these distant settlements has grown by 20,000 just since 2009. In fact, just recently the government approved a significant new settlement well east of the barrier, closer to Jordan than to Israel. What does that say to Palestinians in particular – but also to the United States and the world – about Israel’s intentions?

Let me emphasize, this is not to say that the settlements are the whole or even the primary cause of this conflict. Of course they are not. Nor can you say that if the settlements were suddenly removed, you’d have peace. Without a broader agreement, you would not. And we understand that in a final status agreement, certain settlements would become part of Israel to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 49 years – we understand that – including the new democratic demographic realities that exist on the ground. They would have to be factored in. But if more and more settlers are moving into the middle of Palestinian areas, it’s going to be just that much harder to separate, that much harder to imagine transferring sovereignty, and that is exactly the outcome that some are purposefully accelerating.

Let’s be clear: Settlement expansion has nothing to do with Israel’s security. Many settlements actually increase the security burden on the Israeli Defense Forces. And leaders of the settler movement are motivated by ideological imperatives that entirely ignore legitimate Palestinian aspirations.

Among the most troubling illustrations of this point has been the proliferation of settler outposts that are illegal under Israel’s own laws. They’re often located on private Palestinian land and strategically placed in locations that make two states impossible. There are over 100 of these outposts. And since 2011, nearly one-third of them have been or are being legalized, despite pledges by past Israeli governments to dismantle many of them.

Now leaders of the settler movement have advanced unprecedented new legislation that would legalize most of those outposts. For the first time, it would apply Israeli domestic law to the West Bank rather than military law, which is a major step towards the process of annexation. When the law passed the first reading in the Israeli parliament, in the Knesset, one of the chief proponents said proudly – and I quote – “Today, the Israeli Knesset moved from heading towards establishing a Palestinian state towards Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.” Even the Israeli attorney general has said that the draft law is unconstitutional and a violation of international law.

Now, you may hear from advocates that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace because the settlers who don’t want to leave can just stay in Palestine, like the Arab Israelis who live in Israel. But that misses a critical point, my friends. The Arab Israelis are citizens of Israel, subject to Israel’s law. Does anyone here really believe that the settlers will agree to submit to Palestinian law in Palestine?

Likewise, some supporters of the settlements argue that the settlers could just stay in their settlements and remain as Israeli citizens in their separate enclaves in the middle of Palestine, protected by the IDF. Well, there are over 80 settlements east of the separation barrier, many located in places that would make a continuous – a contiguous Palestinian state impossible. Does anyone seriously think that if they just stay where they are you could still have a viable Palestinian state?

Now, some have asked, “Why can’t we build in the blocs which everyone knows will eventually be part of Israel?” Well, the reason building there or anywhere else in the West Bank now results in such pushback is that the decision of what constitutes a bloc is being made unilaterally by the Israeli Government, without consultation, without the consent of the Palestinians, and without granting the Palestinians a reciprocal right to build in what will be, by most accounts, part of Palestine. Bottom line – without agreement or mutuality, the unilateral choices become a major point of contention, and that is part of why we are here where we are.

You may hear that these remote settlements aren’t a problem because they only take up a very small percentage of the land. Well, again and again we have made it clear, it’s not just a question of the overall amount of land available in the West Bank. It’s whether the land can be connected or it’s broken up into small parcels, like a Swiss cheese, that could never constitute a real state. The more outposts that are built, the more the settlements expand, the less possible it is to create a contiguous state. So in the end, a settlement is not just the land that it’s on, it’s also what the location does to the movement of people, what it does to the ability of a road to connect people, one community to another, what it does to the sense of statehood that is chipped away with each new construction. No one thinking seriously about peace can ignore the reality of what the settlements pose to that peace.

But the problem, obviously, goes well beyond settlements. Trends indicate a comprehensive effort to take the West Bank land for Israel and prevent any Palestinian development there. Today, the 60 percent of the West Bank known as Area C – much of which was supposed to be transferred to Palestinian control long ago under the Oslo Accords – much of it is effectively off limits to Palestinian development. Most today has essentially been taken for exclusive use by Israel simply by unilaterally designating it as “state land” or including it within the jurisdiction of regional settlement councils. Israeli farms flourish in the Jordan River Valley, and Israeli resorts line the shores of the Dead Sea – a lot of people don’t realize this – they line the shore of the Dead Sea, where Palestinian development is not allowed. In fact, almost no private Palestinian building is approved in Area C at all. Only one permit was issued by Israel in all of 2014 and 2015, while approvals for hundreds of settlement units were advanced during that same period.

Moreover, Palestinian structures in Area C that do not have a permit from the Israeli military are potentially subject to demolition. And they are currently being demolished at an historically high rate. Over 1,300 Palestinians, including over 600 children, have been displaced by demolitions in 2016 alone – more than any previous year.

So the settler agenda is defining the future of Israel. And their stated purpose is clear. They believe in one state: greater Israel. In fact, one prominent minister, who heads a pro-settler party, declared just after the U.S. election – and I quote – “the era of the two-state solution is over,” end quote. And many other coalition ministers publicly reject a Palestinian state. And they are increasingly getting their way, with plans for hundreds of new units in East Jerusalem recently announced and talk of a major new settlement building effort in the West Bank to follow.

So why are we so concerned? Why does this matter? Well, ask yourself these questions: What happens if that agenda succeeds? Where does that lead?

There are currently about 2.75 million Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank, most of them in Areas A and B – 40 percent of the West Bank – where they have limited autonomy. They are restricted in their daily movements by a web of checkpoints and unable to travel into or out of the West Bank without a permit from the Israelis.

So if there is only one state, you would have millions of Palestinians permanently living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank, with no real political rights, separate legal, education, and transportation systems, vast income disparities, under a permanent military occupation that deprives them of the most basic freedoms. Separate and unequal is what you would have. And nobody can explain how that works. Would an Israeli accept living that way? Would an American accept living that way? Will the world accept it?

If the occupation becomes permanent, over the time the Palestinian Authority could simply dissolve, turn over all the administrative and security responsibilities to the Israelis. What would happen then? Who would administer the schools and hospitals and on what basis? Does Israel want to pay for the billions of dollars of lost international assistance that the Palestinian Authority now receives? Would the Israel Defense Force police the streets of every single Palestinian city and town?

How would Israel respond to a growing civil rights movement from Palestinians, demanding a right to vote, or widespread protests and unrest across the West Bank? How does Israel reconcile a permanent occupation with its democratic ideals? How does the U.S. continue to defend that and still live up to our own democratic ideals?

Nobody has ever provided good answers to those questions because there aren’t any. And there would be an increasing risk of more intense violence between Palestinians and settlers, and complete despair among Palestinians that would create very fertile ground for extremists.

With all the external threats that Israel faces today, which we are very cognizant of and working with them to deal with, does it really want an intensifying conflict in the West Bank? How does that help Israel’s security? How does that help the region?

The answer is it doesn’t, which is precisely why so many senior Israeli military and intelligence leaders, past and present, believe the two-state solution is the only real answer for Israel’s long term security.

Now, one thing we do know: if Israel goes down the one state path, it will never have true peace with the rest of the Arab world, and I can say that with certainty. The Arab countries have made clear that they will not make peace with Israel without resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That’s not where their loyalties lie. That’s not where their politics are.

But there is something new here. Common interests in countering Iran’s destabilizing activities, and fighting extremists, as well as diversifying their economies have created real possibilities for something different is Israel takes advantage of the opportunities for peace. I have spent a great deal of time with key Arab leaders exploring this, and there is no doubt that they are prepared to have a fundamentally different relationship with Israel. That was stated in the Arab Peace Initiative, years ago. And in all my recent conversations, Arab leaders have confirmed their readiness, in the context of Israeli-Palestinian peace, not just to normalize relations but to work openly on securing that peace with significant regional security cooperation. It’s waiting. It’s right there.

Many have shown a willingness to support serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and to take steps on the path to normalization to relations, including public meetings, providing there is a meaningful progress towards a two-state solution. My friends, that is a real opportunity that we should not allow to be missed.

And that raises one final question: Is ours the generation that gives up on the dream of a Jewish democratic state of Israel living in peace and security with its neighbors? Because that is really what is at stake.

Now, that is what informed our vote at the Security Council last week – the need to preserve the two-state solution – and both sides in this conflict must take responsibility to do that. We have repeatedly and emphatically stressed to the Palestinians that all incitement to violence must stop. We have consistently condemned all violence and terrorism, and we have strongly opposed unilateral efforts to delegitimize Israel in international fora.

We’ve made countless public and private exhortations to the Israelis to stop the march of settlements. In literally hundreds of conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I have made clear that continued settlement activity would only increase pressure for an international response. We have all known for some time that the Palestinians were intent on moving forward in the UN with a settlements resolution, and I advised the prime minister repeatedly that further settlement activity only invited UN action.

Yet the settlement activity just increased, including advancing the unprecedented legislation to legalize settler outposts that the prime minister himself reportedly warned could expose Israel to action at the Security Council and even international prosecution before deciding to support it.

In the end, we could not in good conscience protect the most extreme elements of the settler movement as it tries to destroy the two-state solution. We could not in good conscience turn a blind eye to Palestinian actions that fan hatred and violence. It is not in U.S. interest to help anyone on either side create a unitary state. And we may not be able to stop them, but we cannot be expected to defend them. And it is certainly not the role of any country to vote against its own policies.

That is why we decided not to block the UN resolution that makes clear both sides have to take steps to save the two-state solution while there is still time. And we did not take this decision lightly. The Obama Administration has always defended Israel against any effort at the UN and any international fora or biased and one-sided resolutions that seek to undermine its legitimacy or security, and that has not changed. It didn’t change with this vote.

But remember it’s important to note that every United States administration, Republican and Democratic, has opposed settlements as contrary to the prospects for peace, and action at the UN Security Council is far from unprecedented. In fact, previous administrations of both political parties have allowed resolutions that were critical of Israel to pass, including on settlements. On dozens of occasions under George W. Bush alone, the council passed six resolutions that Israel opposed, including one that endorsed a plan calling for a complete freeze on settlements, including natural growth.

Let me read you the lead paragraph from a New York Times story dated December 23rd. I quote: “With the United States abstaining, the Security Council adopted a resolution today strongly deploring Israel’s handling of the disturbances in the occupied territories, which the resolution defined as, including Jerusalem. All of the 14 other Security Council members voted in favor.” My friends, that story was not written last week. It was written December 23rd, 1987, 26 years to the day that we voted last week, when Ronald Reagan was president.

Yet despite growing pressure, the Obama Administration held a strong line against UN action, any UN action, we were the only administration since 1967 that had not allowed any resolution to pass that Israel opposed. In fact, the only time in eight years the Obama Administration exercised its veto at the United Nations was against a one-sided settlements resolution in 2011. And that resolution did not mention incitement or violence.

Now let’s look at what’s happened since then. Since then, there have been over 30,000 settlement units advanced through some stage of the planning process. That’s right – over 30,000 settlement units advanced notwithstanding the positions of the United States and other countries. And if we had vetoed this resolution just the other day, the United States would have been giving license to further unfettered settlement construction that we fundamentally oppose.

So we reject the criticism that this vote abandons Israel. On the contrary, it is not this resolution that is isolating Israel; it is the permanent policy of settlement construction that risks making peace impossible. And virtually every country in the world other than Israel opposes settlements. That includes many of the friends of Israel, including the United Kingdom, France, Russia – all of whom voted in favor of the settlements resolution in 2011 that we vetoed, and again this year along with every other member of the council.

In fact, this resolution simply reaffirms statements made by the Security Council on the legality of settlements over several decades. It does not break new ground. In 1978, the State Department Legal Adviser advised the Congress on his conclusion that Israel’s government, the Israeli Government’s program of establishing civilian settlements in the occupied territory is inconsistent with international law, and we see no change since then to affect that fundamental conclusion.

Now, you may have heard that some criticized this resolution for calling East Jerusalem occupied territory. But to be clear, there was absolutely nothing new in last week’s resolution on that issue. It was one of a long line of Security Council resolutions that included East Jerusalem as part of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, and that includes resolutions passed by the Security Council under President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush. And remember that every U.S. administration since 1967, along with the entire international community, has recognized East Jerusalem as among the territories that Israel occupied in the Six-Day War.

Now, I want to stress this point: We fully respect Israel’s profound historic and religious ties to the city and to its holy sites. We’ve never questioned that. This resolution in no manner prejudges the outcome of permanent status negotiations on East Jerusalem, which must, of course, reflect those historic ties and the realities on the ground. That’s our position. We still support it.

We also strongly reject the notion that somehow the United States was the driving force behind this resolution. The Egyptians and Palestinians had long made clear to all of us – to all of the international community – their intention to bring a resolution to a vote before the end of the year, and we communicated that to the Israelis and they knew it anyway. The United States did not draft or originate this resolution, nor did we put it forward. It was drafted by Egypt – it was drafted and I think introduced by Egypt, which is one of Israel’s closest friends in the region, in coordination with the Palestinians and others.

And during the time of the process as it went out, we made clear to others, including those on the Security Council, that it was possible that if the resolution were to be balanced and it were to include references to incitement and to terrorism, that it was possible the United States would then not block it, that – if it was balanced and fair. That’s a standard practice with resolutions at the Security Council. The Egyptians and the Palestinians and many others understood that if the text were more balanced, it was possible we wouldn’t block it. But we also made crystal clear that the President of the United States would not make a final decision about our own position until we saw the final text.

In the end, we did not agree with every word in this resolution. There are important issues that are not sufficiently addressed or even addressed at all. But we could not in good conscience veto a resolution that condemns violence and incitement and reiterates what has been for a long time the overwhelming consensus and international view on settlements and calls for the parties to start taking constructive steps to advance the two-state solution on the ground.

Ultimately, it will be up to the Israeli people to decide whether the unusually heated attacks that Israeli officials have directed towards this Administration best serve Israel’s national interests and its relationship with an ally that has been steadfast in its support, as I described. Those attacks, alongside allegations of U.S.-led conspiracy and other manufactured claims, distract attention from what the substance of this vote was really all about.

And we all understand that Israel faces very serious threats in a very tough neighborhood. Israelis are rightfully concerned about making sure that there is not a new terrorist haven right next door to them, often referencing what’s happened with Gaza, and we understand that and we believe there are ways to meet those needs of security. And Israelis are fully justified in decrying attempts to legitimize[1] their state and question the right of a Jewish state to exist. But this vote was not about that. It was about actions that Israelis and Palestinians are taking that are increasingly rendering a two-state solution impossible. It was not about making peace with the Palestinians now – it was about making sure that peace with the Palestinians will be possible in the future.

Now, we all understand that Israel faces extraordinary, serious threats in a very tough neighborhood. And Israelis are very correct in making sure that there’s not a terrorist haven right on their border.

But this vote – I can’t emphasize enough – is not about the possibility of arriving at an agreement that’s going to resolve that overnight or in one year or two years. This is about a longer process. This is about how we make peace with the Palestinians in the future but preserve the capacity to do so.

So how do we get there? How do we get there, to that peace?

Since the parties have not yet been able to resume talks, the U.S. and the Middle East Quartet have repeatedly called on both sides to independently demonstrate a genuine commitment to the two-state solution – not just with words, but with real actions and policies – to create the conditions for meaningful negotiations.

We’ve called for both sides to take significant steps on the ground to reverse current trends and send a different message – a clear message – that they are prepared to fundamentally change the equation without waiting for the other side to act.

We have pushed them to comply with their basic commitments under their own prior agreements in order to advance a two-state reality on the ground.

We have called for the Palestinians to do everything in their power to stop violence and incitement, including publicly and consistently condemning acts of terrorism and stopping the glorification of violence.

And we have called on them to continue efforts to strengthen their own institutions and to improve governance, transparency, and accountability.

And we have stressed that the Hamas arms buildup and militant activities in Gaza must stop.

Along with our Quartet partners, we have called on Israel to end the policy of settlement construction and expansion, of taking land for exclusive Israeli use and denying Palestinian development.

To reverse the current process, the U.S. and our partners have encouraged Israel to resume the transfer of greater civil authority to the Palestinians in Area C, consistent with the transition that was called for by Oslo. And we have made clear that significant progress across a range of sectors, including housing, agriculture, and natural resources, can be made without negatively impacting Israel’s legitimate security needs. And we’ve called for significantly easing the movement and access restrictions to and from Gaza, with due consideration for Israel’s need to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks.

So let me stress here again: None of the steps that I just talked about would negatively impact Israel’s security.

Let me also emphasize this is not about offering limited economic measures that perpetuate the status quo. We’re talking about significant steps that would signal real progress towards creating two states.

That’s the bottom line: If we’re serious about the two-state solution, it’s time to start implementing it now. Advancing the process of separation now, in a serious way, could make a significant difference in saving the two-state solution and in building confidence in the citizens of both sides that peace is, indeed, possible. And much progress can be made in advance of negotiations that can lay the foundation for negotiations, as contemplated by the Oslo process. In fact, these steps will help create the conditions for successful talks.

Now, in the end, we all understand that a final status agreement can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties. We’ve said that again and again. We cannot impose the peace.

There are other countries in the UN who believe it is our job to dictate the terms of a solution in the Security Council. Others want us to simply recognize a Palestinian state, absent an agreement. But I want to make clear today, these are not the choices that we will make.

We choose instead to draw on the experiences of the last eight years, to provide a way forward when the parties are ready for serious negotiations. In a place where the narratives from the past powerfully inform and mold the present, it’s important to understand the history. We mark this year and next a series of milestones that I believe both illustrate the two sides of the conflict and form the basis for its resolution. It’s worth touching on them briefly.

A hundred and twenty years ago, the First Zionist Congress was convened in Basel by a group of Jewish visionaries, who decided that the only effective response to the waves of anti-Semitic horrors sweeping across Europe was to create a state in the historic home of the Jewish people, where their ties to the land went back centuries – a state that could defend its borders, protect its people, and live in peace with its neighbors. That was the vision. That was the modern beginning, and it remains the dream of Israel today.

Nearly 70 years ago, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 finally paved the way to making the State of Israel a reality. The concept was simple: to create two states for two peoples – one Jewish, one Arab – to realize the national aspirations of both Jews and Palestinians. And both Israel and the PLO referenced Resolution 181 in their respective declarations of independence.

The United States recognized Israel seven minutes after its creation. But the Palestinians and the Arab world did not, and from its birth, Israel had to fight for its life. Palestinians also suffered terribly in the 1948 war, including many who had lived for generations in a land that had long been their home too. And when Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2018, the Palestinians will mark a very different anniversary: 70 years since what they call the Nakba, or catastrophe.

Next year will also mark 50 years since the end of the Six-Day War, when Israel again fought for its survival. And Palestinians will again mark just the opposite: 50 years of military occupation. Both sides have accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242, which called for the withdrawal of Israel from territory that it occupied in 1967 in return for peace and secure borders, as the basis for ending the conflict.

It has been more than 20 years since Israel and the PLO signed their first agreement – the Oslo Accords – and the PLO formally recognized Israel. Both sides committed to a plan to transition much of the West Bank and Gaza to Palestinian control during permanent status negotiations that would put an end to their conflict. Unfortunately, neither the transition nor the final agreement came about, and both sides bear responsibility for that.

Finally, some 15 years ago, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia came out with the historic Arab Peace Initiative, which offered fully normalized relations with Israel when it made peace – an enormous opportunity then and now, which has never been fully been embraced.

That history was critical to our approach to trying to find a way to resolve the conflict. And based on my experience with both sides over the last four years, including the nine months of formal negotiations, the core issues can be resolved if there is leadership on both sides committed to finding a solution.

In the end, I believe the negotiations did not fail because the gaps were too wide, but because the level of trust was too low. Both sides were concerned that any concessions would not be reciprocated and would come at too great a political cost. And the deep public skepticism only made it more difficult for them to be able to take risks.

In the countless hours that we spent working on a detailed framework, we worked through numerous formulations and developed specific bridging proposals, and we came away with a clear understanding of the fundamental needs of both sides. In the past two and a half years, I have tested ideas with regional and international stakeholders, including our Quartet partners. And I believe what has emerged from all of that is a broad consensus on balanced principles that would satisfy the core needs of both sides.

President Clinton deserves great credit for laying out extensive parameters designed to bridge gaps in advanced final status negotiations 16 years ago. Today, with mistrust too high to even start talks, we’re at the opposite end of the spectrum. Neither side is willing to even risk acknowledging the other’s bottom line, and more negotiations that do not produce progress will only reinforce the worst fears.

Now, everyone understands that negotiations would be complex and difficult, and nobody can be expected to agree on the final result in advance. But if the parties could at least demonstrate that they understand the other side’s most basic needs – and are potentially willing to meet them if theirs are also met at the end of comprehensive negotiations – perhaps then enough trust could be established to enable a meaningful process to begin.

It is in that spirit that we offer the following principles – not to prejudge or impose an outcome, but to provide a possible basis for serious negotiations when the parties are ready. Now, individual countries may have more detailed policies on these issues – as we do, by the way – but I believe there is a broad consensus that a final status agreement that could meet the needs of both sides would do the following.

Principle number one: Provide for secure and recognized international borders between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestine, negotiated based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed equivalent swaps.

Resolution 242, which has been enshrined in international law for 50 years, provides for the withdrawal of Israel from territory it occupied in 1967 in return for peace with its neighbors and secure and recognized borders. It has long been accepted by both sides, and it remains the basis for an agreement today.

As Secretary, one of the first issues that I worked out with the Arab League was their agreement that the reference in the Arab Peace Initiative to the 1967 lines would from now on include the concept of land swaps, which the Palestinians have acknowledged. And this is necessary to reflect practical realities on the ground, and mutually agreed equivalent swaps that will ensure that the agreement is fair to both sides.

There is also broad recognition of Israel’s need to ensure that the borders are secure and defensible, and that the territory of Palestine is viable and contiguous. Virtually everyone that I have spoken to has been clear on this principle as well: No changes by Israel to the 1967 lines will be recognized by the international community unless agreed to by both sides.

Principle two: Fulfill the vision of the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Arab, with mutual recognition and full equal rights for all their respective citizens.

This has been the fundamental – the foundational principle of the two-state solution from the beginning: creating a state for the Jewish people and a state for the Palestinian people, where each can achieve their national aspirations. And Resolution 181 is incorporated into the foundational documents of both the Israelis and Palestinians. Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state has been the U.S. position for years, and based on my conversations in these last months, I am absolutely convinced that many others are now prepared to accept it as well – provided the need for a Palestinian state is also addressed.

We also know that there are some 1.7 million Arab citizens who call Israel their home and must now and always be able to live as equal citizens, which makes this a difficult issue for Palestinians and others in the Arab world. That’s why it is so important that in recognizing each other’s homeland – Israel for the Jewish people and Palestine for the Palestinian people – both sides reaffirm their commitment to upholding full equal rights for all of their respective citizens.

Principle number three: Provide for a just, agreed, fair, and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, with international assistance, that includes compensation, options and assistance in finding permanent homes, acknowledgment of suffering, and other measures necessary for a comprehensive resolution consistent with two states for two peoples.

The plight of many Palestinian refugees is heartbreaking, and all agree that their needs have to be addressed. As part of a comprehensive resolution, they must be provided with compensation, their suffering must be acknowledged, and there will be a need to have options and assistance in finding permanent homes. The international community can provide significant support and assistance. I know we are prepared to do that, including in raising money to help ensure the compensation and other needs of the refugees are met, and many have expressed a willingness to contribute to that effort, particularly if it brings peace. But there is a general recognition that the solution must be consistent with two states for two peoples, and cannot affect the fundamental character of Israel.

Principle four: Provide an agreed resolution for Jerusalem as the internationally recognized capital of the two states, and protect and assure freedom of access to the holy sites consistent with the established status quo.

Now, Jerusalem is the most sensitive issue for both sides, and the solution will have to meet the needs not only of the parties, but of all three monotheistic faiths. That is why the holy sites that are sacred to billions of people around the world must be protected and remain accessible and the established status quo maintained. Most acknowledge that Jerusalem should not be divided again like it was in 1967, and we believe that. At the same time, there is broad recognition that there will be no peace agreement without reconciling the basic aspirations of both sides to have capitals there.

Principle five: Satisfy Israel’s security needs and bring a full end, ultimately, to the occupation, while ensuring that Israel can defend itself effectively and that Palestine can provide security for its people in a sovereign and non-militarized state.

Security is the fundamental issue for Israel together with a couple of others I’ve mentioned, but security is critical. Everyone understands that no Israeli Government can ever accept an agreement that does not satisfy its security needs or that risk creating an enduring security threat like Gaza transferred to the West Bank. And Israel must be able to defend itself effectively, including against terrorism and other regional threats. In fact, there is a real willingness by Egypt, Jordan, and others to work together with Israel on meeting key security challenges. And I believe that those collective efforts, including close coordination on border security, intelligence-sharing, joint cooperations – joint operation, can all play a critical role in securing the peace.

At the same time, fully ending the occupation is the fundamental issue for the Palestinians. They need to know that the military occupation itself will really end after an agreed transitional process. They need to know they can live in freedom and dignity in a sovereign state while providing security for their population even without a military of their own. This is widely accepted as well. And it is important to understand there are many different ways without occupation for Israel and Palestine and Jordan and Egypt and the United States and others to cooperate in providing that security.

Now, balancing those requirements was among the most important challenges that we faced in the negotiations, but it was one where the United States has the ability to provide the most assistance. And that is why a team that was led by General John Allen, who is here, for whom I am very grateful for his many hours of effort, along with – he is one of our foremost military minds, and dozens of experts from the Department of Defense and other agencies, all of them engaged extensively with the Israeli Defense Force on trying to find solutions that could help Israel address its legitimate security needs.

They developed innovative approaches to creating unprecedented, multi-layered border security; enhancing Palestinian capacity; enabling Israel to retain the ability to address threats by itself even when the occupation had ended. General Allen and his team were not suggesting one particular outcome or one particular timeline, nor were they suggesting that technology alone would resolve these problems. They were simply working on ways to support whatever the negotiators agreed to. And they did some very impressive work that gives me total confidence that Israel’s security requirements can be met.

Principle six: End the conflict and all outstanding claims, enabling normalized relations and enhanced regional security for all as envisaged by the Arab Peace Initiative. It is essential for both sides that the final status agreement resolves all the outstanding issues and finally brings closure to this conflict, so that everyone can move ahead to a new era of peaceful coexistence and cooperation. For Israel, this must also bring broader peace with all of its Arab neighbors. That is the fundamental promise of the Arab Peace Initiative, which key Arab leaders have affirmed in these most recent days.

The Arab Peace Initiative also envisions enhanced security for all of the region. It envisages Israel being a partner in those efforts when peace is made. This is the area where Israel and the Arab world are looking at perhaps the greatest moment of potential transformation in the Middle East since Israel’s creation in 1948. The Arab world faces its own set of security challenges. With Israeli-Palestinian peace, Israel, the United States, Jordan, Egypt – together with the GCC countries – would be ready and willing to define a new security partnership for the region that would be absolutely groundbreaking.

So ladies and gentlemen, that’s why it is vital that we all work to keep open the possibility of peace, that we not lose hope in the two-state solution, no matter how difficult it may seem – because there really is no viable alternative.

Now, we all know that a speech alone won’t produce peace. But based on over 30 years of experience and the lessons from the past 4 years, I have suggested, I believe, and President Obama has signed on to and believes in a path that the parties could take: realistic steps on the ground now, consistent with the parties’ own prior commitments, that will begin the process of separating into two states; a political horizon to work towards to create the conditions for a successful final status talk; and a basis for negotiations that the parties could accept to demonstrate that they are serious about making peace.

We can only encourage them to take this path; we cannot walk down it for them. But if they take these steps, peace would bring extraordinary benefits in enhancing the security and the stability and the prosperity of Israelis, Palestinians, all of the nations of the region. The Palestinian economy has amazing potential in the context of independence, with major private sector investment possibilities and a talented, hungry, eager-to-work young workforce. Israel’s economy could enjoy unprecedented growth as it becomes a regional economic powerhouse, taking advantage of the unparalleled culture of innovation and trading opportunities with new Arab partners. Meanwhile, security challenges could be addressed by an entirely new security arrangement, in which Israel cooperates openly with key Arab states. That is the future that everybody should be working for.

President Obama and I know that the incoming administration has signaled that they may take a different path, and even suggested breaking from the longstanding U.S. policies on settlements, Jerusalem, and the possibility of a two-state solution. That is for them to decide. That’s how we work. But we cannot – in good conscience – do nothing, and say nothing, when we see the hope of peace slipping away.

This is a time to stand up for what is right. We have long known what two states living side by side in peace and security looks like. We should not be afraid to say so.

Now, I really began to reflect on what we have learned – and the way ahead – when I recently joined President Obama in Jerusalem for the state funeral for Shimon Peres. Shimon was one of the founding fathers of Israel who became one of the world’s great elder statesmen – a beautiful man. I was proud to call him my friend, and I know that President Obama was as well.

And I remembered the first time that I saw Shimon in person – standing on the White House lawn for the signing the historic Oslo Accords. And I thought about the last time, at an intimate one-on-one Shabbat dinner just a few months before he died, when we toasted together to the future of Israel and to the peace that he still so passionately believed in for his people.

He summed it up simply and eloquently, as only Shimon could, quote, “The original mandate gave the Palestinians 48 percent, now it’s down to 22 percent. I think 78 percent is enough for us.”

As we laid Shimon to rest that day, many of us couldn’t help but wonder if peace between Israelis and Palestinians might also be buried along with one of its most eloquent champions. We cannot let that happen. There is simply too much at stake – for future generations of Israelis and Palestinians – to give in to pessimism, especially when peace is, in fact, still possible.

We must not lose hope in the possibility of peace. We must not give in to those who say what is now must always be, that there is no chance for a better future. It is up to Israelis and Palestinians to make the difficult choices for peace, but we can all help. And for the sake of future generations of Israelis and Palestinians, for all the people of the region, for the United States, for all those around the world who have prayed for and worked for peace for generations, let’s hope that we are all prepared – and particularly Israelis and Palestinians – to make those choices now.

T

2016: Another Fatal Year For Elephants

2016: Another Fatal Year For Elephants

HAMBURG, Germany, Dec. 22, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Elephants continued to be slaughtered for their ivory this year. More than 18 tons of illegal ivory, plus 949 elephant tusks and more than 3,000 pieces were reportedly seized in 2016, with at least 15 large seizures in excess of 500 kilograms. Most large shipments were intercepted in Vietnam, although huge amounts were also found in Malaysia, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Spain, Austria and Germany.

“It is a sad fact that practically no day goes by without dozens of elephants being killed by poachers and every single week this year enforcers discovered illegal ivory somewhere in the world,” said Rikkert Reijnen, Director of the Wildlife Trade Program for International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “And this is just the tip of the iceberg as only a small fraction of the illegal ivory on the market is being intercepted.”

A new study was published in August: the Great Elephant Census. It was the first-ever continent-wide survey of African savannah elephants that was conducted over two years. The results shocked conservationists worldwide, as it shows that elephants populations declined by 30 percent between 2007 and 2014 – this equals 144,000 elephants! The current rate of decline is 8 percent per year, primarily due to poaching. If the current trend continues, we could see the population down to 160,000 by 2025.

“Elephants have reached the tipping point and the next five years are critical if we want to turn this around,” said Reijnen. “A lot has been done in 2016 to stop the crisis, but it is not enough, if we want future generations to see elephants roam the savannah rather than just read about them in books about species long gone.”

This year has seen some important changes in wildlife-trade legislation. France, China and the USA announced stricter ivory trade regulations and the EU introduced an action plan against wildlife trafficking. During the CITES-conference (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) several decisions were taken to improve the protection of elephants from international trade.

IFAW is advocating for a complete ban on international ivory trade, the closure of domestic ivory markets and the destruction of ivory stockpiles.

IFAW is working with international organizations such as INTERPOL and law enforcement bodies to combat wildlife and environmental crime. In collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), IFAW started a pilot project in Kenya called tenBoma that uses the newest data technology to enable rangers and enforcers to stop poachers before they kill. In consumer countries like China, IFAW is raising awareness to stop people from buying wildlife products and conducting trainings to equip enforcers with the necessary expertise to detect illegal wildlife products.

About IFAW
Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin Has Launched its Annual Appeal for Unwanted Christmas Gifts

December 26, 2016

Dublin, Ireland – St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin has launched its annual appeal for unwanted Christmas gifts which can be passed on the homeless.

The gifts can be placed at the cathedral crib from today until January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany.
Crosscare, the archdiocese’s social care agency, will distribute the gifts, holding some until next Christmas.

This year, Crosscare provided 127,750 bed-nights to more than 1,600 people in six residences for the homeless.

Canon Damian O’Reilly, of the Pro-Cathedral, praised the generosity of parishioners who had already given so much to homeless charities earlier this month in a series of seasonal fundraisers.

The proceeds went to Crosscare, the Peter McVerry Trust and the Capuchin day centre, he said.Canon O’Reilly said the appeal for unwanted presents helped to bring extra cheer to those who could not be with their families, and ensured the time, effort and money that went into buying the gifts in the first place were put to the best possible use. Michael O’Regan The Irish Times

Teaching and Learning In a Post-Truth World

Michelle Mielly, Grenoble École de Management (GEM)

In today’s post-truth environment, university educators face new challenges. Their students are surrounded by a broader spectrum of ideologies and beliefs than ever. Some are fuelled by the US alt-right movement and the growth of similar identitarian movements across Europe.

With Brexit and Trump as its mascots, 2016 has ushered in what David Simas calls a whole new “permission structure” enabled by social media. This new structure enables individuals to bypass traditional authorities who once served as the standard bearers of acceptable political discourse, including spiritual leaders, political party elders and influential journalists.

The US elections demonstrated a turning point, in terms of emboldening behind-the-scenes supporters of totalitarian thinking. One common trick in the reactionary playbook is to invert traditional roles: those usually stereotyped as racists are depicted as oppressed victims, and those once labelled as liberal progressives are transformed into politically correct thought police.

Conservative writer David Horowitz, for example, has made a living out of this role inversion principle, targeting “dangerous professors” or “progressive racism” in his books.

New tools

So teachers and scholars have lots of work to do. How can we respond to alt-right rhetoric? What are the core skills needed to foster citizenry in democratic societies and global workplaces?

Some answers can be found in a 2013 British Council study, Culture at Work which set out to understand what qualities were most important to employers.

After surveying hundreds of Global HR managers to rank the skills, values, and attitudes most needed in new recruits to their organisations, they found some key elements, highlighted in yellow in the graph below. They observed not only emotional intelligence qualities, but also cultural intelligence elements; an “outsider’s seemingly natural ability to interpret someone’s unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures in just the way that person’s compatriots would.”

Excerpt from ‘Culture at Work’, British Council, 2013.

As educators, we strive for greater cultural intelligence in our students by exposing them to a variety of situations: group projects in multicultural teams, remote global team assignments in multiple time zones, and collaborating in cross-border MBA projects. And yet none of this work can take place effectively without one key ingredient.

If we look at the top of the above scale, one quality is clearly ranked higher than any other on the continuum: demonstrating respect for others.

There are a number of behaviours and attitudes which indicate respect: openness to others, willingness to listen to different opinions, and the ability to include as many perspectives as possible in decision-making processes. Below I highlight three especially useful activities in the current ideologically charged environment.

Building respect for others

Don’t underestimate your implicit bias. We live with differences within in our own families, and then in a series of concentric circles moving outwards from the nuclear family, deal with people who think, look, live, and act differently from ourselves.

Students use masks and portraits of others to highlight otherness.
Grenoble Ecole de Management, Author provided

A central aspiration of instructors in the humanities and social sciences is to raise awareness of the collectively imagined, socially constructed nature of differences in general. Identity, race, religion, or gender are human constructs and subject to human error. This is knowns as cognitive bias and entire disciplines such as behavioural economics have been founded on its premises.

Making students aware of their own preconceived ideas, or “mindbugs” should lead them to see their own blindspots: those greyish areas in which we are ignorant and unaware of our own inherent biases.

An exploration of this principle can be found in Harvard’s Project Implicit; which gathers data on implicit social cognition and the unconscious mental associations that humans make. The project’s goal is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a virtual laboratory for collecting data. Individuals can discover the unconscious associations their mind makes by taking one of the many implicit association tests available in multiple languages.

This way, anyone can learn about his or her implicit biases on topics like gender, religion, politics, obesity, skin colour, or sexuality. The objective is not to guilt-trip anyone but rather to experience the test and reflect on the various implications in daily life.

Not underestimating our bias means knowing ourselves a little better. This fosters greater awareness of those blindspots we all have, especially when it comes to how we perceive our “others”.

Challenge you original bias

Students need to reflect on the many assumptions they make linked to social issues (race, gender, religion) and John Rawls’ Theory of Justice of the “original position” can help them do that. The original position is unadulterated by societal forces, and can be found behind a veil of ignorance where according to Rawls :

No one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does anyone know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, strength, and the like.

Working in small groups, students are put in the role of the original position:

“I have to state my ideas on slavery, but I do not know if I am black or white, rich landowner or poor slave, in the USA or the Saudi Arabia.”

“I have to decide on how to redistribute resources in an economy, but I do not know if I am a billionaire or a homeless person.”

Making decisions behind the veil of ignorance forces – if even very briefly – empathy and ivrespect for the position of others.

Groupwork on Veil of Ignorance debate: this one was on wearing the burqa in a secular society.

Learn from history

Fostering a historical consciousness and a sense of historical urgency (a strong sense of the “now”) can help students unpack cultural identity questions in three crucial ways. It can give them an understanding of their place in the world now vis-à-vis the past, help them understand the role their ancestors and respective histories have played in getting us to today, and help them grasp the irretrievable nature of the past and its errors in trying to build the future.

To do this we have a multitude of tools at our disposal. In the contemporary context, Walter Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History (1940) are quite useful in conceptualising on where we are historically.

I assign specific theses to a group of students and ask them to draw up the connections between what is written and where we are today, and then to make inferences on the implications for their own identity questions.

These theses are actually short aphorisms or statements written at a time of great historical urgency in Europe. As Benjamin wrote, “The emergency situation in which we live is the rule.” Every moment is history in the making, and carries a crucial message that we must attempt to grasp.

Students role play and debate after the exercises – their reactions can often be quite strong.
Grenoble Ecole de Management, Author provided

Students react in contrasting ways to these activities and debates. The goal is not to gain their agreement or adhesion to a given agenda, but to push them to develop, more than ever, their critical thinking skills, and challenge their understanding of how they receive information.

Debates rage over how students will manage working with minority members in their teams, how they will react to radically different work environments and colleagues, or the big one: just who’s supposed to be doing the adaptation work, and how far should a person go when adapting?

Our job is to protect everyone’s right, even those with whom we disagree, to free expression in the classroom.

This can be done if two important conditions are met up front by students: they speak from a place of critically informed thinking, and their intention is benevolent.

The Conversation

Michelle Mielly, Associate Professor in People, Organizations, Society, Grenoble École de Management (GEM)

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.